Global power rental company Aggreko has agreed to buy energy storage firm Younicos for approximately $52 million in cash, as reported in The Telegraph. Aggreko, headquartered in Scotland, is a provider of leased mobile power, as well as heating and cooling equipment. The firm had revenues of approximately $2.6 billion last year, with more than 7,300 employees.

Founded in 2005, the Berlin-based Younicos builds software to help design and control grid battery systems. The startup doesn’t make its own batteries but it does make the software to control them.

Younicos raised more than $75 million from investors including Korean lithium-ion battery maker Samsung, Calibrium AG (formerly Aeris Capital), Mithril GmbH, German-Japanese flow battery maker Gildemeister/DMG Mori Seiki, America's First Solar, Grupo Ecos and battery manufacturer Panasonic. Despite the positive spin from officers of the acquirer and acquiree, it's difficult to paint this as anything but a disappointing exit. [Correction: Samsung not an investor as per Younicos CEO Stephen Prince.]

In 2014, Younicos bought the portfolio of bankrupt U.S. storage startup Xtreme Power, giving it 60 megawatts' worth of projects in North America. Xtreme Power itself had raised $89 million before Younicos acquired its projects.

Younicos now has a total portfolio of more than 200 megawatts of installed storage systems. According to a release, the firm had revenues of $9 million, while losing $19 million in 2016.

In a characterization that seems like a big stretch, Aggreko CEO Chris Weston said he "expected the business to break even in its own right by the middle of next year."

Aggreko claims that Younicos’ systems can be used "across its business to lower the cost of energy for its customers, as well as increasing its green credentials."

This acquisition follows a recent trend of large firms acquiring small, growing energy storage firms.

  • Wartsila, the massive marine and power plant specialist, acquired Greensmith for an undisclosed amount. Greensmith had won more than $27 million in investment from utility behemoths AEP and E.ON, as well as VC firms Cota Capital and TDF Ventures. Greensmith's acquisition is a much more positive exit at a respectable VC multiple.
  • Doosan acquired 1Energy Systems. Wartsila has much in common with Doosan Heavy Industries, a large power equipment company.
  • Italian utility Enel acquired a 100 percent stake in U.S.-based Demand Energy, a developer and operator of energy storage systems and software earlier this year. Enel's renewables division operates 36 gigawatts of clean energy around the world.
  • French utility Engie bought an 80 percent stake in California-based C&I storage specialist Green Charge Networks in May of last year. Green Charge previously raised $56 million from K Road DG in 2014, and an undisclosed amount from angel investors.
  • In September of last year, a subsidiary of French mega-utility EDF acquired Groom Energy Solutions, an energy services company.

Greensmith's CEO John Jung told GTM that the difference between solar or wind and energy storage is that "you can't unleash its potential unless you have the software right."